Traveling from Canada to Europe is like stepping into a completely different world. The culture, the atmosphere, the history, the lifestyle… everything is different. And then throw in a bunch of wild soccer fans on top of all that and you have a whole new world of fun. And you know… it’s funny, because back here, the media reported on fights breaking out, and the controversy of how horrible racism is in Poland and Ukraine. And you know what? We saw none of that. No matter which team you were rooting for, you were accepted into the party. No matter where you were from, you’re going to raise your drink and cheers each other.
The only thing that made you stand out is a) if you didn’t dress for the occasion and b) if you didn’t have paint on your face. (And if you don’t have paint on your face, you can be damn sure there’s someone waiting to put their teams colours on you:)
June 8th was the opening day of the Euro Cup. We spent the day in a city called Gdynia, which is where Sebastian’s aunt, uncle, and cousins live – who, by the way, were pretty much the best hosts ever. They put up with our shenanigans over the 2+ weeks that we stayed there. (And fed our bellies until we could eat no more. And then fed you again shortly after. Ahhh-mazing:)
We put on our team colours (Go Polska!), painted our faces, and set out to watch Poland vs. Greece at Gdynia’s fan zone. You could feel the excitement in the air, as everyone screamed for Poland. Who, by the way, if you missed the game, made the most insane save on a penalty shot and I thought everyone was going to completely lose their minds. (And well … I think some of them did … Sebastian included.)
All ready to go down to the game! From left to right: Ewelina (Seb's cousin), Me, Kasia (Seb's aunt), Ava (my soon-to-be mother-in-law!), Mirek (my soon-to-be father-in-law!), Valeriy, Matt (our friends), and last but not least, Matt (my soon-to-be brother-in-law!)
Ava and I, showing our team spirit.
On June 14th, it was time for Spain vs. Ireland. The game that the guys had been waiting to go to since, for what seemed like forever ago.
It might seem like there was a lot of people at the Gdynia fan zone up above, but baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Gdansk is the official host city for the Euro Cup, so you can imagine how crazy it could have possibly been there. In my mind, I mentally prepared myself, but really, let’s be honest here. There is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for thousands of people in such a condensed area.
Some of those people being the most hilarious you will ever see. There were leprechauns everywhere! (No rainbows though. What gives?) And countless amounts of ginger beards. It was a sea of red and green. And constant chanting. Then there's that guy who climbed the light post, tried to use a flower basket to lift him up, and crashed back down on the ground taking the flowers with him. And who could forget the Spain fan who was dressed up as a matador with a miniature mechanical bull that would literally walk on the ground while he waved his cape around it.
I kid you not. (If only I could flood you with all of the pictures we took.)
Watch this video to see a bit of what it was like downtown, in the heart of Gdansk. (And then be shocked that Sebastian didn't get punched:)
A sea of people. (Can you find me?:)
Photo opp's with our new friends. Don't mind my sweet rain cape... it's fashionable, right?
After spending time downtown amongst the crowds, and after the boys went to the game at the stadium, Ewelina, Matt (Seb's brother), and I made our way to the main fan zone in Gdansk. (And made some more friends, of course!)
The fan zone has the capacity for more than 30,000 people and even though it was raining the first time I was there, it was madness. In the centre of the fan zone, there's a stage set-up for concerts next to the massive screen for watching the soccer game. There were beer tents and food galore, accompanied by a ton of activities for everyone to enjoy. I couldn't believe it when I saw human fooseball, cage soccer matches, and even water soccer set up in a small pool! The kid in me was jumping up and down for joy!
To give you an idea of just how crazy it was, check out this video that was taken from just one of the tents available. TV's surrounded the area, the beer was flowing, the chanting and screaming never stopped, and there were Ireland fans galore.
...Want to know how the Irish behave when they lose in the Euro cup? Check this out too. Best. Losers. Ever.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience that I will never, ever forget. For the most part. (I kid, I kid.)
The finals are this weekend! Who will you be cheering for?